Cloé Perrone: In the early 1990s you funded the Zabludowicz Collection with your husband, Poju, to support the works of emerging contemporary artists across the globe. Today, you’re considered a super-collector. With more than three thousand works by more than five hundred artists, the Zabludowicz Collection is now housed in a former Methodist church in the Camden district of London and is open to the public. You’ve also created initiatives for artists who lack commercial gallery representation, and you fund art education programs. This is all a massive achievement! So let me start by asking: What advice would you give a young person who would like to begin collecting art?
Anita Zabludowicz: What I personally have created in the art world is very unusual. I would not recommend that a young collector start their own art space unless they are one hundred percent committed to helping young artists, writers, creatives, curators, and/or art students progress in their practices. I would definitely tell the young collector to welcome good advice and use it well. Join museum patron groups, use Instagram, and choose the galleries you buy from carefully, to make sure that you share the same objectives.
CP: Do you consider yourself a philanthropist more than a collector? And more broadly, do you think a top collector needs a social goal?
AZ: In the world of the art market, I would not consider ourselves among the top collectors, as the basis of our collection is philanthropy rather than the market. There are many hidden rewards to working in a philanthropic way, one of the biggest being the ability to work directly with artists. We often feel we are a springboard to the next level in their careers.
CP: In recent years, private museums have become far more numerous. It looks like many collectors are feeling the urge to open their own spaces. Why did you decide to open your collection to the public? If the end goal is to be maximally socially relevant, would a more efficient strategy be to support public institutions by donating artworks to them, and funding their exhibitions?
AZ: Our way of working is quite unusual, bespoke to each project that we commit to. Each project is different, raising new challenges, but always rewarding. Funding exhibitions with which we are not involved is satisfying, and we would still do so even though we have our own space, but that would definitely mean missing out on a very exciting process.
We do also donate works to public institutions and national collections; for instance we have a donation in progress now where we have been able to work closely with the museum, and so far it has been a fascinating journey. The ecology of the art world can only get richer by having different kinds of spaces, both public and privately funded, each developing its own kind of program and supporting a broader range of artists.
CP: The first piece you bought was at auction: a painting by Ben Nicholson, at Sotheby’s in 1994, then you rapidly started collecting young emerging artists. How did fairs help you in this process? Do you still consider fairs a place to make new discoveries?
AZ: Art fairs started growing rapidly in the early 2000s. I did not have a private space at that time, and my focus, even when collecting conceptual works, was not so institutionally minded. The beginning was a lot of fun, and I bought what I loved without thinking about the consequences and responsibility. Acquiring art now for us is a more considered and serious process, and so I respect the art fairs like Artissima that carefully choose their galleries and presentations.
CP: This year Artissima launches a new section, Artissima Sound dedicated to artists using different forms of sound as a way of activating the public. As a collector who has supported film and video acquisitions at Tate since 2003, how do you feel about buying a sound installation?
AZ: When I was chair of the Video Acquisition fund with Tate, there was not much sound art available. Yet sound has always been an important aspect of the practices of many artists working with film and video, for instance Seth Price, Haroon Mirza, or Ryan Trecartin. Recently through Daata Editions I have been able to collect sound works by artists such as Hannah Perry, Lina Lapelyte, and Tracey Emin. The lower the edition number, the cheaper the work, starting at $100. David Gryn has started a curated program of sound art at Expo Chicago.
CP: This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Artissima—a fair, like your collection, known to be innovative and well curated. Could you tell us how Artissima has contributed to the construction of your collection?
AZ: Artissima is more multidimensional than other art fairs. As well as showing some of the older, more established Italian galleries, which present many artists I am not aware of, but which are nevertheless very interesting, the fair also features some fascinating younger contemporary artists. It has different sections, which are strong and easy to navigate. What Artissima does that no other fair does is educate the collector.